Doctor Who has always felt like a hand-me-down, and that feeling and Russell T Davies’s approach to engaging with a younger audience are crucial to its future.


The first question that often comes up in conversation with a Doctor Who fan, whether at Comic-Con or a nail salon, is, "Who is your Doctor?" It so often brings warmth to the other person’s eye.

Each fan usually has one — the one who evokes a story, nostalgia, or a time of life.

Usually, it’s their first. They narrate their first memory of their Doctor or a scene that pulled them in; years or decades later, a smile will come across their face, a "Do you remember when...?"

That’s the DNA of Doctor Who - the magic of it, that indescribable something.

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Russell T Davies gets that as a fellow Doctor Who enthusiast who could pull apart and put back together the history of Doctor Who, who still gets that warmth in his eye when he recalls a Doctor Who memory from his own youth.

He commented on his push for younger viewers, saying: "The under-16s and the 16-34 audience, as well, is massive. It's not doing that well in the ratings, but it is doing phenomenally well with the younger audience that we wanted."

Doctor Who star Ncuti Gatwa with hands clasped against a pink and blue background
Doctor Who star Ncuti Gatwa. BBC Studios/Yoshitaka Kono

That younger audience will one day answer the question, "Who’s your Doctor?" with a smile and two words: Ncuti Gatwa.

As Davies has also stated, "In coming back, I wanted to make it simpler, and I wanted to make it younger."

We often think of Doctor Who as something that has always been there and always will be. But that hasn’t always proven to be true.

Doctor Who has lived across generations, has evolved across eras, and has meant so much to so many — it has a careworn, handmade quality. It belongs to the fans, to Davies as a 10-year-old who read The Making of Doctor Who with care. But it also needs to survive.

Its survival rests on its ability to continue to appeal and snag onto the hearts and minds of younger audiences so that a Baker fan can meet a Tennant fan, a Gatwa fan, and so on and on it must go.

It’s too simple to be self-righteous, to want things, to expect things to be just so, and forget that for all its handmade charm, it’s nostalgia and personal meaning. There also needs to be shrewdness, a method of future-proofing; Davies understands that it’s crucial to everything the show was, is, and wants to be.

Russell T Davies in a navy jacket smiling into camera
Russell T Davies. BBC

His plan appears to be working. A BBC spokesperson recently said: "Overnight ratings no longer provide an accurate picture of all those who watch drama in an on-demand world.

"This season of Doctor Who premiered on iPlayer nearly 24 hours before broadcast, and episode 1 has already been viewed by nearly 6 million viewers and continues to grow.

"Doctor Who remains one of the most-watched programmes on iPlayer and is the BBC’s top drama for under-35s this year, making it one of the biggest programmes for the demographic across all streamers and broadcasters."

So, children and young people now comprise the majority of viewers, which is how it should be. The show should be catering to the tastes of a younger audience; many Doctor Who fans have benefitted from their formative years with the Doctor, learnt lessons, or seen themselves represented.

We were all young once, and the Doctor was there for us as we went through it, as we came to understand the world and our place within it.

Davies has also previously spoken about the show’s LGBTQ+ representation and the importance of disability representation and further diversity, which are elements children and young people need to see.

By resolving to make the show more accessible and easier to follow, he has successfully made it possible for new viewers to join the fandom, not by betraying the show’s core values but by returning to them. Doctor Who has always been a family show, often made for children.

That question, "Who’s your Doctor?" It can be asked of viewers, young and old, and shifting that focus doesn’t alter that truth. I will still watch Doctor Who in many decades, appreciating it and relishing every moment.

I am less than a handful of years away from the cut-off point. Soon, I won’t be under 35, which doesn’t bother me. I grew up with the Doctor and will continue growing with the Doctor. I don’t need or want to be the target audience; I want the show to evolve and change and not quite be for me at some point, to be able to say, "Look how far it’s come since back in my day."

It should be thrilling to any Doctor Who fans to see that the show has such impressive ratings among the under-35s this year; remember that feeling the first time you saw the Doctor or something about it snagged at you? We should want to pass it on.

This demographic is crucial to the show’s future growth and success. Targeting a younger audience ensures that it can attract new fans who will grow up with the show, whatever their age, and become lifelong enthusiasts. In the end, it’s a strategic approach that will help secure the show’s continued popularity, relevance and survival.

Ultimately, Doctor Who has always felt like a well-loved hand-me-down, which remains crucial to its success.

Doctor Who will return at Christmas on BBC iPlayer and BBC One. Previous seasons are available to stream on BBC iPlayer with episodes of the classic series also available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.


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